Argentina prosecutor who accused president of cover-up in Jewish Center bombing found dead

An Argentina prosecutor who, last week, accused top government officials of covering up Iranian involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires was found dead in his apartment.

Alberto Nisman conducted an investigation during which he discovered that the Argentine government – including the former president, husband of the current president – deliberately hid evidence of the involvement of top Iranian officials in the bombing.  In exchange, the Iranians granted oil concessions to the energy-starved country.

The cover-up continues to this day with another quid-pro-quo deal involving the current president, where Argentina sold wheat to the Iranians.  Cristina Kirchner, widow of former president Nestor Kirchner, has been accused of facilitating the deal and had complete knowledge of Iranian involvement in the terror attack.


The Security Ministry released a statement saying that Mr Nisman's bodyguards had raised the alarm after he failed to answer their phone calls on Sunday.

Concerned about his welfare, they fetched Mr Nisman's mother and tried to enter his apartment, the statement said.

They found the door locked from the inside with a key still stuck inside.

After a locksmith gained access, they found Mr Nisman's body in the bathroom.

According to the statement, a gun and a cartridge shell were found next to his body.

Key hearing

Mr Nisman was due to give evidence at a congressional committee hearing on Monday to outline his accusations against President Fernandez and other officials.

He had published a 300-page report on Wednesday alleging that the president and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman had opened a secret back channel to Iranians suspected of involvement in the bombing of the community centre.

Mr Nisman alleged that the scheme was intended to clear the Iranian suspects in order to facilitate a trade deal between Iran and Argentina.

He said that he had issued a request that a judge question the president and the foreign minister "for being authors and accomplices of an aggravated cover-up and obstruction of justice regarding the Iranians accused of the Amia [Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association] terrorist attack".

The car bombing of the seven-storey building was the worst terrorist attack in Argentina's history.

In 2007, Argentine prosecutors accused Iran of planning and financing the attack, and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah of carrying it out.

Iran dismissed the allegations as "baseless".

So far, no-one has been convicted in connection with the Amia attack.

Last July, at events marking the 20th anniversary of the bombing, Pope Francis demanded justice for the victims.

What is it that Nisman has on Kirchner, and did it get him killed?  The reason I hesitate to definitively say that this was an assassination is that the investigation was botched to begin with (the original judge was thrown off the case for bias and bribery; he was impeached in 2005), and Nisman himself may have been mentally unbalanced.

This is an account of the charges explained by Nisman in a radio interview a few days ago:

In a radio interview on Thursday, a day after filing the case, Nisman ratified his accusations against president Cristina Fernández. “From all the phone tapping records, which were verified, we proved that two months after the death of (former president) Néstor Kirchner (…) Argentina made a 180-degree turn in its foreign policy.”

The prosecutor went on: “(The Executive) decided to approach Iran geopolitically (…) they wanted to establish full diplomatic relations, and more importantly, a commercial trade due to the energy crisis that Argentina faced.”

Nisman has accused the government of improving its relation with Tehran in order to obtain oil and to boost grain exports at the expense of covering up Iranian officials' involvement in the bombing.

He explained that the special prosecutor's office was established by former president Nestor Kirchner in 2004 and began its work in 2005. He pointed out that at the time, the then Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa had received a proposal by Iran to exculpate the suspects in the attack.

“Bielsa said so very clearly: we have received an offer from the Iranians to buy wheat for 4bn dollars, a very beneficial economic offer, in exchange we have to state that the prosecutor’s complaint was all a mistake and void it,” Nisman said.

However, the prosecutor said that ex president Kirchner had nothing to do with those offers. “(Nestor Kirchner) always said ‘this is a Judicial issue, get out of here'.”

“The president decided to give impunity to Iran, to exculpate (the suspects) in the probe, so they would no longer be under investigation. All the decisions were taken by her. All the talks (recorded in phone taps) relate to her (…) She was aware of everything and (Foreign Minister Hector Timerman) did not move without the president’s consent,” he said.

Many observers thought it fishy when the Argentine government suddenly dropped the notion of Iranian involvement in 2012.  But by this time, the evidence had been mishandled, the investigation had gone off the rails, and no one could sort through the corruption and incompetence of the police who handled the inquiry.  Several local police went on trial in 2004 in connection with the bombing, and all were acquitted.

The FBI, who investigated the case with Argentina authorities, believes that the attack on the center was a suicide bombing carried out by a Hezb'allah operative, Ibrahim Hussein Berro, who had connections to the Iranian government.  But the physical evidence in the case was so mishandled that it is doubtul that any conviction will be forthcoming.

(Note: There is a plaque in southern Lebanon honoring Berro as a martyr, with the date of his death coinciding with the suicide bombing of the Jewish community center.)

Nisman's credibility has been called into question, even prior to these latest charges.  We await the police report on the tragedy, but don't expect anyone to believe its findings.

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